Layer Up: How to Dress for a Cold CrossFit Workout

Winter rolled in this morning, blasting my part of Houston with 43 degree temperatures – and it’s not going to be much warmer for the rest of the week. As with most CrossFit boxes, mine is a converted garage sans climate control. In the summer, we’re sweaty messes even before 3…2…1…GO! And when the temperatures drop, we’re shivering. Sometimes, we’ll put our kettlebells in front of the space heater before a WOD, or we’ll warm our hands in between sets of the strength portion.

So I’m taking some of the lessons I learned about layering while living in New England to the box with me. I’m dusting off some of the running gear I thought I would only need once or twice in the winter down here. If this is your first winter CrossFitting, here are a few tips to stay warm before (and after) the WOD and dress for a cold CrossFit workout.

Love the Layers

You may know that you’ll be peeling down to your tank top mid-WOD, but before that, the last thing you need is to be shivering while reviewing technique and congregating around the whiteboard. My foolproof 40 degree morning outfit consists of capris (the slice of flesh between the bottom of the capri and top of my socks isn’t going to freeze), a tank or t-shirt, a long-sleeved shirt (if I’m doing the tank and hoodie option), and a hoodie or fleece. Then the real fun starts: a hat or ear warmer headband and gloves. If it’s colder than 40 degrees, I’ll usually wear leggings. The guys typically wear track pants or men’s running tights underneath basketball shorts.

Prepare for a Longer Warmup

It’s inevitable that the rowing machine will come out. There is no place in the box where the gloves and hat and fleece get shed faster than a good, hard rowing session, so it’s likely your CrossFit coach is going to have you pull up a rower and get going. (Now’s a good time to review rowing technique…) You definitely want to warm up before you stretch; nothing is a more surefire way to injure yourself than to try to stretch cold muscles.

Keep Moving

Now is not the time to take a burpee nap. It’s the time to keep moving, bang out those wall balls, and not stop. You want your blood to keep flowing to stay warm. If you’re waiting for the GO, do some air squats or hop from foot to foot.


It’s easier to remember to hydrate when you’re dripping sweat in 100 degree weather with 90 percent humidity. In 40 degree weather, not so much. Hydration won’t necessarily keep you warm, but it will keep you healthy. Drink plenty of water after your cold CrossFit workout.

Re-Layer After the WOD

Depending on the WOD, you’re probably sweating a lot, and your layers are chucked next to your barbell or plyo box. Don’t even think about just stuffing them into your gym bag. Put your layers back on, even if you’re just dashing to your car for the drive home. You will quickly be cold, and you will be opening yourself up to getting sick.

What are your must-haves for cold-weather workouts?